Stuff Fatty Loves: Soft Serve Ice Cream

09.23.2010 | 12:25 pm

Today is my third installment in my “Stuff Fatty Loves” series, wherein I talk about bike-related things I can, without reservation, recommend. And I am pleased — no, delighted — to announce that today’s lovable thing is soft serve ice cream.

What? You wonder how soft serve ice cream is a bike-related item? Well, to you I say: pffff. There’s nothing in the world more bike-related than soft serve. Except perhaps a bike. But my point stands. Or it will stand, after I prop it up a bit.

Which I will do right now. In a roundabout way.

Lucky Accident

I live in Alpine, Utah, about as close to American Fork Canyon as you can without actually taking up residence in the little toll booth at the mouth of the canyon. This is not by accident, because I knew before I moved here exactly how perfectly suited to both road and mountain biking American Fork Canyon is.

However, I did not consider when moving here that American Fork Canyon is also home to the Timpanogos Cave National Monument.

But if I had considered that, I would have wanted to move here even more. Because the Timp Cave Visitor Center — which you must pass, whether you’re mountain biking or road riding — has a nice little concession stand.

And that concession stand has vanilla soft serve ice cream for sale. For $0.89, you can, on the way home from a mountain or road ride, get yourself a cool little coneful of heaven.

After you’ve been riding in the heat for hours, nothing in the world sounds quite so perfect as something cool, creamy, and caloric. You’re just sitting outside, relaxing in the shade, still near the mountain that you love, licking the ice cream fast enough to keep it from melting, but not so fast that it gives you an ice cream headache.

There have been times when, for the last half hour of a ride, all I can think about is that soft serve. Where I’ve been asking myself — with all the focus and intensity as if I’m considering the meaning of life — whether I’ve got a debit card or paper money with me. Or — failing that — whether I’ve got enough change in my vehicle to cover a cone.

The Beauty of Soft Serve

It’s possible you’re wondering what the big deal is. “It’s just ice cream,” you might claim. Or maybe even, “Soft serve isn’t even great ice cream — why get attached to soft serve in a world that contains Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk?”

Those are reasonable objections. And my responses to those objections are really what makes soft serve ice cream a bike-related thing I love.

I shall enumerate. Using numerals and everything.

  1. Consistency. Soft serve is — this should come as no surprise — soft. Either during or after a ride, when I’m really cooked, ice cream that is already practically pre-melted for me is perfect. Hard ice cream is too much effort; I prefer to just lazily lick around the cone. Plus, because it isn’t as cold as regular ice cream, it doesn’t freeze your taste buds. Which means you taste it better.
  2. The other consistency. No matter where you get it, soft serve is pretty much the same thing. No weird surprises. You can be riding anywhere, stop at an unfamiliar place and get a soft serve cone and be certain it’s going to be what you want.
  3. Near-ubiquity. Chances are, if you go riding past any fast food restaurant, you’ve got access to soft serve.
  4. The cone. Soft serve generally comes in a cake-style cone — the whiteish, flat-bottomed cones. I love these cones as much as the ice cream itself.
  5. The ritual. Everyone eats their soft serve in their own particular way, and I’m not here to judge your way. The important thing is, everyone really does eat their soft serve in their own way — the same way — every single time, and it’s a magnificent expression of self. As for myself — I know you’re curious — I go for sideways licks, spiraling from the top to the bottom of the cone, rotating the cone as I go, and always monitoring for drips onto the cone itself. Once I have gotten the ice cream perfectly level with the cone, I bite away the first level of the cone, then repeat the original process. Once the ice cream is level with the remainder of the cone, I bite off the top half. I then pop the bottom half into my mouth.
  6. Time. A soft serve cone takes about five minutes to eat — just about the right amount of time for a ride break or to cool down after a ride.

Problem Areas

There are, sadly, some trouble spots with soft serve. The most important one for me is that my body has evidently decided that the primary purpose of dairy products is as a catalyst for fart production. I have resolved this problem to my satisfaction, however, by rationalizing to myself that as long as I have just one cone, my gassiness won’t be that bad.

Which I’m sure everyone agrees with wholeheartedly.

The next problem with soft serve is in quantity. Specifically, there are some ice cream servers who are too generous. Yes, I know it sounds weird, but I don’t like it when I buy a cone and get eight inches of ice cream towering precariously atop my cone. For one thing, that much ice cream is going to compound the gassiness problem. For another, the chances of my successfully eating that much soft serve without it becoming a melty mess is poor at best. And of course, the likelihood of the ice cream tower toppling from the cone is very high, which means I will — in a slow-motion split second — likely go from having too much ice cream to having too little.

Thus, I hereby declare that the correct dimensions for the soft serve above the cone are as follows:

  • The diameter of the ice cream shall not exceed the diameter of the widest point of the cone by more than 1/2″. Nor shall it be any narrower than the widest point of the cone.
  • The height of the ice cream shall be the same height as the cone itself, plus or minus 1/2″. Thus giving the soft serve cone a pleasing symmetry.

I do not, by the way, want to come off as some bourgeois soft serve snob; I fully recognize that serving a well-balanced soft serve cone takes talent and practice. Seeing a well-formed cone always makes me envious; any attempts I have ever made at serving soft serve have been miserable failures.

Vanilla vs. Chocolate vs. Twist

Most soft serve machines have three options: chocolate, vanilla, and twist (ie, a combination of chocolate and vanilla).

Allow me to recommend that — even if you really like chocolate — you always go with straight-up vanilla. I say this because while the vanilla flavor is in fact very vanilla, the chocolate flavor is not really very chocolate-y.

And buying twist just means that you’re wishy-washy and indecisive. Don’t buy twist.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, I love soft serve ice cream, and am satisfied that I have managed to — somewhat weakly perhaps — tie it to cycling.


  1. Comment by Mike Roadie | 09.23.2010 | 12:40 pm

    Nothing could be more cycling related than ice cream….in all its glorious forms!

  2. Comment by JeffM | 09.23.2010 | 12:54 pm

    I wish you hadn’t told me about that concession stand. I will never be able to ride the canyon again without stopping. Unfortunately, some of those stops will be on the way up!

  3. Comment by Paul Guyot | 09.23.2010 | 12:56 pm

    You should make soft serve part of the next contest.

    Win a $6000 Trek Bike AND a gallon of soft serve!

    Shipped separately, of course.

  4. Comment by Jeannette | 09.23.2010 | 12:56 pm

    Totally agree. But I think soft serve (especially soft-serve yoghurt ice cream) is related to everything!

  5. Comment by jonw9 | 09.23.2010 | 1:00 pm

    I was with you the whole way Fatty, until you dogged the twist. How can you say the chocolate is “wishy-washy” when in fact, it is the best of both worlds!

  6. Comment by Philly Jen | 09.23.2010 | 1:13 pm

    +1 for twist cones!

    When I went to college, we had a DIY soft-serve ice cream machine in the dining hall. Oh, the sad, lopsided, misshapen creations that used to parade by! Whenever we spied a particularly grotesque extrusion, we would shake our heads and murmur aloud to Our Lady of Dairy Queen…

  7. Comment by Alison Wonderland | 09.23.2010 | 1:14 pm

    I’m right there with you. Although I will request a stipulation that in places where there are options other than chocolate (say, mango or peach, both delicious and available at my place of business) that the twist option becomes a viable (not to mention intelligent) choice.

  8. Comment by Rich | 09.23.2010 | 1:29 pm

    One better “Lassen Park” with 30 miles of the smoothest pavement in the world and a concession with soft serve at both ends

  9. Comment by Dan O | 09.23.2010 | 1:30 pm

    Dude – the chocolate and vanilla twist is the only way to roll….

  10. Comment by Derek | 09.23.2010 | 1:37 pm

    What about the vanilla cone dipped in chocolate? or the colored sprinkles?

  11. Comment by Class Cyclist | 09.23.2010 | 1:54 pm

    I am just happy to know that I am not the only cyclist who has dairy issues – I love the stuff, but the people around me, well, they DO NOT love the results of me eating it!

  12. Comment by Z | 09.23.2010 | 2:01 pm

    You nearly made the rules for the corect dimensions as complicated as UCI’s regarding time trial frames.

  13. Comment by Bill | 09.23.2010 | 2:06 pm

    gotta say, the twist is my soft-serve of choice.

  14. Comment by Dr. Brett | 09.23.2010 | 2:08 pm

    Once upon a time at my small-town corner soft serve joint (Cone Corner) in addition to the big three flavors, they also had “pineapple”. My favorite.

  15. Comment by Geo | 09.23.2010 | 2:16 pm

    I often joke that I plan my rides where there is a Dairy Queen every couple hours. While that is not true (only because there are no DQs nearby) as soon as I find a DQ within riding distance on safe roads that may become my route of choice.

  16. Comment by a chris | 09.23.2010 | 2:17 pm

    Hmmm, while ice cream has always been fine for me, soft-serve is different stuff. I’m getting nervous just reading about consuming it far from comfortable facilities.

  17. Comment by TomE | 09.23.2010 | 2:23 pm

    We are doing a night ride at Buffalo Creek tonight – in honor of the Harvest Moon (that was last night). Supposed to be in the low 40’s here in Colorado…and yet I can tell that ALL I will be thinking about is soft serve ice cream!!!! Thanks Fatty!!!

  18. Comment by Squirrelhead | 09.23.2010 | 2:27 pm

    Fatty you are crazy! Twist is the best!!! Saying you should only go vanilla is like saying you should only ride on the road. You like to ride dirt and road don’t you Fatty? It’s better that way isn’t it? It’s the best of both worlds. Just like the soft serve twist.

  19. Comment by JAT in Seattle | 09.23.2010 | 2:35 pm

    I now imagine dimes and pennies, forgotten in jersey pockets, rattling against the inside of your washing machine.

  20. Comment by sarge@mach5 | 09.23.2010 | 2:36 pm

    Here in Greentown, Indiana we stop at Kelly’s Ice Cream on the way back from a hard hot ride. Started by a fine Irish lad who knows a thing or two about soft serve (according to Kelly I guess the Irish invented Soft Serve). Kelly reccommends the extra protein of the crunch coat topping, which is ground up peanuts and sprinkles. All I know is the stuff is like rocket fuel when you still have a few miles to make it home.

  21. Comment by Bee | 09.23.2010 | 3:19 pm

    Oh, that might not be fair, if it’s okay to say. I love twist cones most of the time, because they are usually the best of chocolate and vanilla and I really love chocolate soft serve except when I don’t. So you better not knock my wishy-washy twist cones, unless you really want to, and then I suppose it’s okay until it isn’t.

    I’ll have my twist with a side of twist, thank you.

    BTW, you forgot the best part of softserve- the ice cream gets all the way down in the cone, so there’s no empty air space.

  22. Comment by roan | 09.23.2010 | 3:20 pm

    AHHH !!! soft self serve ice cream or frozen yogurt in Davis, CA was the best then management started weighing the purchase, took all the fun out of it.
    Fatty, do you take your gloves off ? If not then you might as well save some time and enjoy your 2 favorite things at the same time.
    At a family diner, home style cook’n where the dessert is mandatory, either stiff jello (orange or lime) or vanilla soft serve in a dish, y’all have been there, right.
    The only real choice is the soft serve…but try this next time Tabasco, a touch of the southwest.

  23. Comment by MrDaveyGie | 09.23.2010 | 3:54 pm

    I’m a Blizzard or a Sundae kind of guy. Soft serve just isn’t fattening enough.

  24. Comment by mtb w | 09.23.2010 | 4:05 pm

    Vanilla is good but Fatty didn’t mention what makes Vanilla the best flavor – the dip in chocolate. (chocolate and twist dipped in chocolate aren’t quite as good to me). Something about the contrast of pure vanilla with a hard chocolate coating is soooo gooood. Plus, the nice sweet chocolate crunch invites you into the smooth, creamy filling. And, the hard shell keeps it from melting too quickly. Yep, the chocolate coating is worth it!

  25. Comment by Team Coffee Nook | 09.23.2010 | 4:27 pm

    DQ vanilla cone, cherry-dipped, nuff said.

  26. Comment by RedNBlondies | 09.23.2010 | 4:37 pm

    But I LOVE the twist. I am not a big chocolate fan, and the lack of intense chocolatiness is why the twist is so good. Delicious vanilla, with just a hint of chocolate. The chocolate just serves to feature the vanilla, just as it should be.

  27. Comment by English Ron | 09.23.2010 | 5:07 pm

    I read somewhere that soft serve was as good a recovery supplement as chocolate milk…….actually I wrote it in vain hope that it could be true. I am with you vanilla is the only way to go, although I disagree with a height limit!

  28. Comment by denise | 09.23.2010 | 5:26 pm

    You do realize, dont you, that ’soft serve ice cream’ isn’t cream at all, it’s emulsified chicken fat. Yum. You can have my share.

  29. Comment by thule | 09.23.2010 | 7:03 pm

    biking = unlimited ice cream. the #1 reason I bike is to eat. so long as I bike, ice cream is allowed without limit. even tho I also prefer vanilla, research has shown that chocolate milk (=chocolate ice cream) is an excellent recovery food. ergo: ice cream is an important part of any biking program.

  30. Comment by evil3 | 09.23.2010 | 8:16 pm

    I am now really sad as you called me names for wanting to eat twist. :( lol But really with twist you get the best of both (and seeing as I don’t like chocolate that much (real or soft serve chocolate), it is a perfect balance of soft serve goodness. Vanilla is good as well though.

    Also when you were describing soft serve ice cream, all of the points line up with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups except the cone (with some slight changes to the description of the points).

  31. Comment by evil3 | 09.23.2010 | 8:25 pm

    @ denise, I don’t know where you got your info, but you are way off on how soft serve ice cream is made. So with that I will be happy to take yours since you don’t seem to know that all it is is normal ice cream with less fat and stored in a wamrer temps (still well below freezing)

  32. Comment by Gomez | 09.23.2010 | 8:35 pm

    @Denise, that’s disgusting and untrue. If it were true, of course, it would be delicious served with guacamole and tortilla chips, which would be awesome.

  33. Comment by courtney | 09.23.2010 | 9:36 pm

    gawddamn, I love soft serve.

    Emulsified chicken fat. HA! I’ve made soft serve, and I can attest to a distinct lack of chicken anything in it.

  34. Comment by Rie | 09.23.2010 | 9:46 pm

    Ah, soft serve. Love it. One good thing about living down here in the Sunshine State (or perhaps the only good thing) is that there are plenty of orange grove stands that sell soft-serve orange ice cream/sherbert/sorbet. In this case, twist is best. It’s basically a soft-serve creamsicle, combining the refreshing tang of the frozen orange with the sweet, creamy softness of the vanilla. Yummy.

  35. Comment by phil | 09.23.2010 | 11:51 pm

    you really should get paid well for these posts, now i am craving soft ice cream and haven’t even biked today.

  36. Comment by Han Aiwen | 09.24.2010 | 12:53 am

    My husband (who was born in American Fork, UT) and I live outside a national park in Sichuan, China. We frequent the ice cream seller from Dicos, a local fast food chain, after our rides in the area. It is the best of the bad ice cream choices around. They could use some advice from you on how to make the perfect cone. Recently we discovered that they bought the bad knock-off of the already bad ice cream and their soft serve is now a funny color and gritty. Only vanilla flavor, so no chance to screw up on flavor choice. Even McD’s soft serve would be an improvement.

  37. Comment by Weean | 09.24.2010 | 1:11 am

    Non-dairy ice cream is just wrong, period.

    You can get dairy-based soft serve (“whippy” ice cream in the UK), but it’s like hen’s teeth. It’s generally made from pig fat rather than chicken fat over here (Wall’s had to get rid of their sausage leftovers somehow).

    Happy eating everyone

  38. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 09.24.2010 | 4:55 am

    Vanilla soft serve with peanut butter cups is my poison. Although when I get home from a long, hot ride nothing beats laying in my front yard eating a mint Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich. Ah, bliss.

  39. Comment by Brett | 09.24.2010 | 8:58 am

    Thank you for validating my summer job back in school! Pulling off the perfect soft serve cone was an art and I’m happy to hear it is appreciated.

  40. Comment by randy | 09.24.2010 | 9:18 am

    Finally, something Fatty loves that I can afford.

  41. Comment by centurion | 09.24.2010 | 10:33 am

    You have to find a place that serves creamcicle(vanilla/orange twist) soft serve. I call such places “Heaven”.

  42. Comment by bub | 09.24.2010 | 10:40 am

    Dip Cone!!!!

  43. Comment by Yahoo!Rob | 09.24.2010 | 10:47 am

    @ Randy: here here! With the California economy tanking, and kids needing things like food and clothes (the nerve!), I can’t afford anything that Fatty recommends. But $0.89 for a cone could be manageable.

    Hey, but if I just FOREGO

  44. Comment by Yahoo!Rob | 09.24.2010 | 10:48 am

    @ Randy: here here! With the California economy tanking, and kids needing things like food and clothes (the nerve!), I can’t afford anything that Fatty recommends. But $0.89 for a cone could be manageable.

    Hey, but if I just sacrifice eating 4000 cones, then I COULD afford my Bianchi Infinito in amazing blue and white paint scheme!!

    Does anyone else justify their purchases like me? Or am I really alone and crazy in my thinking?

  45. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 09.26.2010 | 1:28 pm

    Exceedingly well-reasoned descriptions of the beauty of soft-serve ice cream – now, if only I could find a source on my rides!

  46. Comment by Roses | 09.27.2010 | 9:13 am

    Now this is a bike related item that I can really get on my behind… I mean, really get behind.

  47. Comment by Susie | 09.27.2010 | 2:41 pm

    i too am envious of the person who dispenses my soft serve cone with such perfection. i’ve often pondered (no really, i have) how long it takes to acquire the skill necessary to actually be allowed to pass one through the drive thru window…LOVE me some soft serve!

  48. Comment by Steven | 09.27.2010 | 6:24 pm

    Fatty: Looking for more favorites from you. I hope this posting wasn’t the last in the series. How about favorite tires, tubes, pumps… all the good stuff that we count on when out on a long ride with no way back home with product that doesn’t hold up. Thanks!

  49. Comment by Paige | 10.1.2010 | 3:30 pm

    I am a new commenter here, but I had to add to this one. My husband and I have tried every kind of ice cream imaginable, and as a Utah local, I have to send you to Nielsen’s Frozen Custard in Holladay (3918 Highland Drive). Same consistency as soft-serve, but it tastes infinitely better.

  50. Comment by Angie | 03.23.2011 | 12:29 pm

    Elden, I’m catching up! Ha haaa! I will soon be current. Oh, wait…. that means I’m not going to be able to read blog entry after entry to my heart’s content. I will have to wait for sometimes more than a day or two to read your blog. I will become very impatient. You need to know this so that you can keep it in your head as the weeks go by. You should probably rearrange your life so that you can write in your blog with more regularity. Numerous posts a day would be very nice. This will need to happen by the time I catch up. I would keep checking throughout the day if you decide to do that, because withdrawal is going to set in. You see, when I am current, I will open up the page in the morning. I will read the entry and then be sad that it’s over. Out of habit, I will keep going back to your page, as I do now…. It would be so nice if you updated again on the same day! I say this only because I know that I am your star blog reader.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.